At first reading there appears to be an evident contradiction (or paradox) between THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 56: 1. 6 - 7] and the GOSPEL [MATTHEW 15: 21...
On this solemnity of
EPIPHANY we recall the arrival of the Wise Men in Bethlehem. There we are told “they worshipped him … (and) offered him gifts, gold frankincense and myrrh.” [see TODAY’S GOSPEL – MATTHEW 2: 1 – 12]
OUR PSALM [72 or 71]
states that “the kings of Tarshish … Sheba and Seba shall bring him gifts. Before him all kings shall fall prostrate.“ While Matthew’s account merely records that “Wise Men from the East came …“ there is no Gospel record of kings or the actual number of these visitors from the East. I suspect that the tradition of Three Kings finds its source in our Psalm. However, there is a slight problem because if we read the Psalm carefully more than three are mentioned because the Psalm speaks of the kings of Tarshish and the islands as well as the Kings of Sheba and Seba.
All this introduces the principal truth celebrated this Sunday – that the Child of Bethlehem was
THE CHILD for the whole world. Every single living person, down through the ages, has access to THE SAVIOUR who is the LIGHT OF THE WORLD. The Wise Men (probably astrologers) were from from the East, and the Psalm tells us that “he shall rule from sea to sea … and all nations shall serve him.“ In addition, OUR NEW TESTAMENT READING [EPHESIANS 3: 2 – 3a. 5 – 6] Saint Paul informs us that “the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus …“
If we focus our attention on the journey made by the Wise Men and their offering of gifts there will be two challenging matters for reflection.
First of all
, I have only recently noticed an interesting implication contained in the closing phrase of today’s Gospel in which Matthew informs us that the Wise Men “departed to their own country by another way.“ If we enlarge our vision beyond the geographical route we could discover that even if they had gone home the way they came, the manner of their return would have been vastly different. We talk freely about the ‘way’ I went, the ‘way’ I did something, and the ‘way’ I felt. It is impossible not to believe that the way the wise men felt and the way the journey was made must have seen them on ‘a high’. The star had shone, the star was there on the return journey, and would shine for them the rest of their lives. How long will the star of my Christmas shine for me in my life?
, what gifts did I offer the Christ Child? It is, perhaps, more important to ask what gifts did I offer FOR the Child, not to him? What gifts am I prepared to offer NOW, and in the course of the New Year?
I am interested in the words gift and present! Common English usage allows an interchange of the two words. However, the word present also indicates
TIME! Not only is there a past before the present but there is also a future. In a strange but real way a gift indicates in the present what I felt in the past – and what I anticipate feeling in the future.
I have a sense that the gifts offered by the Wise Men at Bethlehem only found real value when they returned to their real home –
THEIR NEW ONE!
The gifts I have already offered need to be reflected in both the present and future
. This is the sure way in which, as we have noticed Saint Paul saying, I become a “partaker of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.“